Are DUI Checkpoints Legal?
DUI checkpoints are a controversial method of catching and preventing suspected drunk drivers. The police will block off a section of road, stop cars, and ask for the driver’s license and registration. When the police notice symptoms of intoxication, they will ask the drivers to submit to a field sobriety or Breathalyzer test.
Since the police stop cars at random, it is not likely they will discover many drunk drivers. But the primary purpose of these sobriety checkpoints, which are generally well advertised, is to discourage people from drinking and driving in the first place.
It can be frustrating to get pulled over and charged with a DUI even though you were driving normally. If you get arrested at a DUI checkpoint, you may be able to fight the charges and win with the help of a skilled Pittsburgh DUI lawyer.
When Are DUI Checkpoints Legal in Pittsburgh?
Many states do not allow their law enforcement agencies to set up DUI checkpoints. However, in Pennsylvania, the legislature considers that the inconvenience and invasion of privacy caused by these checkpoints is justified by the public’s interest in reducing drunk driving. Therefore, law enforcement agencies in Pittsburgh may set up DUI checkpoints — but only if they meet certain guidelines.
A DUI checkpoint is legal in Pennsylvania when it meets the following requirements:
- It must be stationary and well-manned
- The police must stop cars according to a consistent method, such as every other or third car
- The police must publicize the DUI checkpoint location before they set it up
- The DUI checkpoint must be set up in an area where DUIs have occurred in the past
If you get charged with a DUI resulting from a checkpoint, the Commonwealth’s prosecutors must demonstrate that law enforcement set up the checkpoint according to these guidelines. Otherwise, a Pittsburgh DUI lawyer may be able to get your charge dropped — even when there’s evidence that you were drinking and driving.
How a Pittsburgh DUI Lawyer Can Help
Owing to the complexity of DUI law, and the difficulties in proving that a checkpoint was improperly set up, hiring a skilled and experienced Pittsburgh DUI lawyer to handle your case is essential.
The lawyer will need to perform extensive discovery — which means requesting not only all the documents of the prosecution’s case but any documentation pertaining to the checkpoint and how it was set up. This information may contain proof that the checkpoint was improperly set up.
Then, your lawyer may take depositions of the officers who performed the stop. A deposition is an official interview during which a court employee will record your lawyer’s questions and the officer’s answers.
These statements can be used later on during your trial to help expose inconsistencies and weaknesses in the prosecution’s case. For example, it may emerge that the officers manning the checkpoint did not have a systematic method for selecting the vehicles that they pulled over.
Your lawyer may have a strong argument for having your DUI charge dropped if the checkpoint was set up improperly. Additionally, your attorney may be able to defend your case by arguing that:
- Your field sobriety test was improperly administered
- The law enforcement officer lacked probable cause to give you a test
- Your Breathalyzer test result was within the legal margin of error
- Your urine or blood test was not administered properly
A DUI conviction can turn your life upside down. In addition to fines and possible jail time, you may not be able to drive until you get your license reinstated. If you’re facing charges for driving under the influence, call Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC today at (412) 281-2146 for a free and confidential consultation with a Pittsburgh DUI lawyer.